Microbiology BSc


Fact file - 2017 entry

UCAS code:C501
Qualification:BSc Hons
Type and duration:3 year UG
Qualification name:Microbiology
UCAS code
UCAS code
Microbiology | BSc Hons
3 years full-time (available part-time)
A level offer
Required subjects
at least two science-based subjects at A level (biology and chemistry preferred, but can include maths and geography) and an additional A level or equivalent.  
IB score
34-32 (including specified grades in science subjects and English language) 
Course location
Sutton Bonington Campus (some modules taught at University Park Campus)
Course places


Microbiology is a laboratory-based science studying the micro-organisms which affect human, animal and plant health. Microbiologists are at the cutting edge of solving the microbial problems facing mankind.
Read full overview

For example, genetically modified microbes are used to combat pests and disease in crops without the need for chemical sprays. Valuable products like insulin for diabetes and vaccines against diseases are made cheaply and efficiently by modified microbes.

Microbiologists work in a huge variety of fields, including food, healthcare, chemicals and waste treatment.

Our course includes a signficant proportion of laboratory-based work and you will have the opportunity to learn a wide variety of practical techniques. You can take an optional placement in industry between years two and three of your degree programme.Your final year research project will give you a real understanding of microbiological and molecular biological research. By the end of the course you will be qualified to work with microbial pathogens - this means you can pursue a laboratory career immediately, for example in a hospital or pharmaceutical company.

Year one 

You will study a broad base of core modules including microbial physiology, biochemistry, genetics and cell biology.

Year two 

Second-year core modules include a significant proportion of laboratory- based work. These include: Bacterial Biological Diversity, Medical Microbiology, Virology, and Microbial Mechanisms of Foodborne Disease.

Year three

You will undertake a year-long research project, spending at least three full days per week in the final semester undertaking your work. Examples of recent projects include:

  • synthetic biology to produce anti-cancer agents
  • antimicrobial resistance in farm isolated E. coli
  • bioethanol fermentation using immobilised microorganisms
  • immune response to Porcine Rotavirus infection
  • improving yeast performance in very high gravity fermentations
  • new PCR identification method for Listeria monocytogenes
  • use of a bacteriophage-based detection assay to detect Mycobacteria

You will also be able to choose from a range of optional modules.

Industry Placement year

This optional year in industry as a paid employee takes place between years two and three of your degree. It gives you the opportunity to develop a wide range of skills in a real-world environment, which will significantly improve your employment prospects. Read more

Year in Computer Science

You can combine this degree with an extra fourth year (year three) spent in the University's School of Computer Science. This additional year will provide you with training in software development and computing skills relevant to your final year research project and to your future career.

You will be able to transfer into this programme from your BSc course (subject to progression criteria).

Study Abroad options

Combining Microbiology with a Certificate in European Studies offers the opportunity to study abroad at one of our Erasmus+ partner universities in France, Germany or Spain for an extra year. You can transfer to this four year route in your first semester of study, subject to language competency. 

Students can also apply to the University-wide exchange programme and spend a semester studying abroad at one of our world-leading partner universities in a variety of overseas locations including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA and China.

Read more  


Entry requirements

A levels: AAB-ABB, including at least two science-based subjects at A level (biology and chemistry preferred, but can include maths and geography), and an additional A level or equivalent.

General studies, critical thinking, citizenship studies and leisure studies are not accepted.

English language requirements 

IELTS 6.0 (no less than 5.5 in any element)

Students who require extra support to meet the English language requirements for their academic course can attend a presessional course at the Centre for English Language Education (CELE) to prepare for their future studies. Students who pass at the required level can progress directly to their academic programme without needing to retake IELTS. Please visit the CELE webpages for more information.

Alternative qualifications 

For details please see alternative qualifications page

Foundation year - a foundation year is available for this course

Flexible admissions policy

We may make some applicants an offer lower than advertised, depending on their personal and educational circumstances.

Notes for applicants 

Our modular courses are flexible and offer the opportunity to combine your main studies with modules in other subject areas (please note that all modules are subject to change).



Typical year one modules


Biochemistry – The Building Blocks of Life
Have you ever wondered how some crops can resist diseases? This module provides you with the fundamentals for understanding biochemical processes in living organisms. You’ll be introduced to the basic structure, properties and functions of the four key biological macromolecules: nucleic acids, proteins, carbohydrates and lipids. You’ll also look at the metabolic pathways occurring in cells, such as respiration, photosynthesis and the biosynthetic pathways for the key macromolecules. In addition to lectures, you’ll have practical laboratory sessions to learn how to use key biochemical techniques for the separation and analysis of macromolecules and measurement of the metabolic process. 
Genes and Cells 1
The basic functional units of life are cells. In this module you’ll learn about the growth and development of cells, focusing on mitosis, meiosis, cell division and differentiation. You’ll get to explore the ultrastructure – the structure of a cell too small to be seen with an ordinary microscope – of animal, plant and bacterial cells and even viruses. Once you have this foundation understanding, the second part of the module covers fundamental genetic principles and you’ll be able to answer the questions: What are the Mendelian laws of inheritance? How are genes expressed? You’ll have lectures from current researchers in the field and the opportunity to apply your learning in the laboratory and in workshops.
Microbes and You
Through this module, you will be given perspective on how microbes interact with humans, animals, plants and other organisms; how they influence environmental processes, and how microbial products contribute to healthcare, food production, and manufacturing. It will address the influence of technological developments, and scientific understanding of microbes and the public perception of them. You’ll spend two hours per week in lectures and tutorials studying for this module.
Genes and Cells 2
In a series of lectures, workshops and practicals you’ll further develop your understanding of gene structure, function and regulation and investigate how this knowledge can be applied in recombinant DNA technology through DNA sequencing and genetic engineering.   
The Physiology of Microbes 
Through four hours of lectures each week, you’ll be given basic knowledge of bacterial cell structures and growth and reveal the mechanisms that allow bacteria to respond to their environment. You’ll also be taught how to handle data commonly used in microbiological experimentation and be given training in the basic practical methods required for all microbiological laboratory work through a three hour practical each week.
Microorganisms and Disease
You’ll be introduced to a range of important human pathogens, their interactions with the immune system, mechanisms of disease causation and the laboratory procedures involved in diagnosis and treatment of infections. Each week you’ll spend four hours in lectures to study for this module.
Biosciences Tutorials and Foundation Science

The tutorials component of this module is intended to enhance your transition into university and guide you through the academic expectations of your degrees. This part of the module is spread throughout the year and includes three generic sessions on ‘study skills and plagiarism’, ‘study opportunities’ and ‘career and personal development’, and a series of small group tutorials with your academic tutor to develop generic skills such as finding crucial information, oral presentation, data handling and presentation of results, preparation for examinations, and essay writing skills relevant to biosciences.

The Foundation Science content has three elements: chemistry, maths and statistics and physics. The chemistry element will include: elements and periodic table; atomic structure and bonding; intermolecular attractions, chemical equilibrium; acids and bases, oxidation and reduction; rates of reaction; basic organic chemistry, isomerism, and rings.  The Maths and Stats element will include: calculations, algebra, functions and relationships, powers, logarithms, descriptive statistics, significance, regression and presenting data. The Physics element will include: units and dimensions; power, energy and heat; light and the electromagnetic spectrum; attenuation/absorption; and radioactivity.

There is also an IT element, which interfaces with generic IT training for undergraduates provided within the University.



 Optional modules include:

The Biosciences and Global Food Security
How can you use science to help improve global food security? This module introduces you to the issues of global food security and the complexity existing in different parts of our food generation system. Looking across the food supply chain, you’ll cover the evolution of crops, crop and animal production, and the food industry. Importantly, you’ll also look at sustainable nutrition because food security isn’t just about supply – it’s important that people are getting the right kind of food. You’ll learn about these issues through a mix of lectures and practical laboratory sessions. You’ll also develop professional skills to work safely in laboratory situations. 
Molecules that Changed the World

This course will introduce you to selected molecules that have had significant impact on humankind, including medicines, drugs, poisons and materials. This will be taught in historical context, placing significant importance on how and why these molecules made such an impact on society. We will discuss how unique chemical names came about, the people and cultures involved and the key discoveries and events leading to the current (or past) significance of these molecules in the world.




Typical year two modules


Bacterial Biological Diversity
This module is designed to provide an understanding of the extent of bacterial biological diversity. Following introductory lectures on bacterial taxonomy and classification and web-page design, you’ll undertake two student-centred exercises. The first will be the production of an essay on a chosen organism covering its taxonomy, biology and ecology. The second will be a group exercise to design a web site including the material collated for the essay.
Medical Microbiology
This module will introduce you to the properties, mechanisms of resistance and clinical use of antimicrobial agents in the treatment of microbial infections. Options relating to disease prevention will be explained, and you’ll be provided with an insight into the role of the laboratory and the Public Health Laboratory Service in the diagnosis, management and control of infection in hospital and the community. During an average week, you’ll have a three hour lecture to study for this module.
The module will provide an introduction to viruses and their interactions with their hosts (bacteria, plants and animals including humans) as well as discussing the structure of viruses and their significance including pathogenesis and molecular biology. You’ll spend four hours per week in lectures studying for this module.
Principles of Immunology 
What are the main events of the immune response when the body is infected by intra and extracellular parasites, essential components of many diseases? In this module you’ll be introduced to the fundamental concepts behind cellular and molecular immunology. You’ll learn about the main characteristics and features of the innate and adaptive immune system, their functions and how they relate to each other. You’ll explore current immune-techniques, modern concepts of immune-deficiency and hypersensitivities, and contemporary topics in animal and human diseases.
Analysis of Bacterial Gene Expression
This module covers the major techniques required for analysis of gene expression including methods for gene sequence and transcriptional analysis. An in depth study of vectors and gene constructs provides an understanding of the different strategies used in creating mutants and identifying gene function in bacteria. As well as practicals, the coursework exercises are designed to illustrate the topics covered in the lecture course and will give students experience of experimental design and critical analysis of research data and an introduction to bioinformatics for the analysis of DNA and protein sequences.
Professional Skills for Bioscientists 
In this module you will develop and consolidate your professional competencies and abilities as a bioscientist. You’ll improve your core professional skills in the scientific method, experimentation, data analysis and measurement techniques that enable you carry out scientifically-sound research in animal, crop or management science. You’ll also cover discipline-specific topics. There will be a mix of lectures, workshops and group activity sessions for you to work on your skills.
Microbial Mechanisms of Foodborne Disease 
This module aims to provide a fundamental understanding of the microorganisms causing food-borne disease and the mechanisms by which they do this and their routes of transmission. In laboratory practicals you will learn a number of core practical methods needed for the safe handling, culture, isolation, enumeration and identification of a range of ACDP2 pathogens. 



Bacterial Genes and Development
This module aims to describe in some detail the molecular events which occur during the control of gene expression in bacteria. The material covered will begin with simple control circuits, followed by case studies which show how complex developmental programmes can occur in response to environmental stimuli. You’ll have a weekly three hour lecture to study for this module.
Molecular Biology and the Dynamic Cell 
This module offers a detailed study of the core molecular processes that enable cells to function such as DNA biochemistry, gene expression, protein synthesis and degradation. You will learn about the basic molecular processes that underpin the function of eukaryotic cells and to describe how different organelles within the cell function, with an emphasis on the dynamic nature of cell biology. You will have lectures, practical classes a poster presentation and tutorials.  
Computer Modelling in Science: Introduction 
Modern biological and environmental science is often the study of complex systems and large data sets, and relies on computer models and analyses to understand these systems and data. This module introduces you to the computer programming and modelling techniques that are used in the biological and environmental sciences. Using relevant examples and applications, you’ll become familiar with computer programming and algorithms using the Python programming language, and explore how to analyse image data. You’ll also learn how to construct mathematical models for biological and environmental systems using difference and differential equations, with a particular emphasis on population dynamics, and how to simulate, analyse these models and fit these models to data. In computer laboratory sessions, you’ll apply your learning to specific problems, such as environmental pollution, growth of microbial populations, disease epidemics, or computer manipulation of images of plants, animals or the natural environment. 
Medical Molecular Genetics
This module will present information on the most recent aspects of the Human Genome Project and the methods employed in disease gene identification. Case studies will discuss the identification of genes responsible for some of the most common inherited disorders. The module will also cover cytogenetic and molecular genetic diagnoses of inherited disorders and development of strategies for treatment. You will have eleven weeks of lectures and practical classes.
Proteins: Structure and Function
This course will enable you to describe the structure and function of soluble proteins,  explain how individual proteins can be studied in molecular detail, understand the problems associated with studying membrane-bound proteins and gain an increased knowledge about enzyme kinetics and catalysis.
Basic Molecular Pharmacology
This module will provide you with a fundamental understanding of what the discipline of pharmacology represents. This includes a definition of what drugs are, the different ways they can act at the cellular and molecular level, and the principles of drug absorption, distribution, metabolism and elimination. These aims are considered within the framework of how we can quantify drug action and use drugs as fundamental research tools. You will have lectures, a data analysis workshop, private study and a review seminar.
Microbial Biotechnology

In this module you will learn about the use of yeasts, filamentous fungi and bacteria in biotechnology as it relates to the food, agriculture, medicine and other industries. The course will demonstrate how an understanding of the biology and genetics of microorganisms allows their use as cell factories for the production, and models for the discovery, of enzymes and metabolites. The course will also explore how microbial activities themselves can be exploited in processes ranging from food production to biocontrol of disease-causing organisms. You will have ten weeks of lectures for this course.

The course will provide you with an introduction to the biology of parasitic organisms, the evolution of parasitism and the ways in which new molecular and cellular approaches inform disease control. You will have lectures and practicals in one semester.
This module aims to give you an introduction to the basic concepts of immunobiology. The course   introduces the basis of vertebrate immunity, focusing on humans, their immune response to infection and the basis of immunological disorders.



Typical year three modules


Microbiology Research Project

You will choose and plan a research project in consultation with a supervisor, and will be required to design experiments, collect, analyse and interpret the data obtained. You’ll carry out a literature review and produce an experimental outline. You'll spend at least three full days per week in this year undertaking your work. Examples of recent projects include: 

  • synthetic biology to produce anti-cancer agents
  • antimicrobial resistance in farm isolated E. coli
  • bioethanol fermentation using immobilised microorganisms
  • immune response to porcine rotavirus infection
  • improving yeast performance in very high gravity fermentations
  • New PCR identification method for Listeria monocytogenes
  • Use of a bacteriophage-based detection assay to detect Mycobacteria

Read BURN the Biosciences Undergraduate Research at Nottingham web pages to find out more about undergraduate research projects. BURN is a freely accessible e-journal which showcases final-year research projects undertaken by biosciences students.



The Microflora of Foods
You’ll be given an understanding of: the micro-organisms which are important in foods; the factors which control the development of the microflora of food products and the methods which can be used to isolate and identify bacteria from food products. You’ll spend one day per week in lectures studying for this module.
Molecular Microbiology and Biotechnology
This module will enable you to comprehend the opportunities that protein engineering provides in applied microbiology and to appreciate some of the practical limitations associated with technology. You’ll gain a detailed understanding of prokaryotic protein expression and examples of its application to biotechnology. Practical classes and seminars will provide an insight into the necessary constraints and practicalities of experimental design and execution. The major coursework assignment introduces you to the rigour required for writing scientific papers.
Plant Cell Signalling
This module deals with the production and perception of plant signalling molecules and the ways in which these signals are integrated to ensure appropriate responses to environmental conditions or plant pathogen attack. You’ll have a three hour lecture each week to study for this module.
Molecular Plant Pathology
This module will cover the molecular techniques being used to develop an understanding of plant/pathogen interactions. It will then cover the molecular biology of plant pathogens, how these cause disease, and the mechanisms used by plants to defend themselves against such pathogens. You’ll have a three hour lecture each week to study for this module.
Rapid Methods in Microbial Analysis
This module will enable you to understand where new methods can replace traditional techniques of microbial detection and recording. You’ll spend four hours in lectures and have a three hour practical each week to study for this module.
Microbial Fermentation
This module commences with a review of microbial fermentation, including beer, cheese, yoghurt, meat and single-cell protein production, as well as sewage treatment. The underlying principles of microbial fermentation will be discussed, in addition to specific examples which will be examined in depth. From this basic knowledge the problems of microbial contamination and spoilage of the finished product will be analysed. You’ll spend four hours in lectures and have a four hour practical each week to study for this module.
Virology and Cellular Microbiology
The module will provide an in depth induction into the relationship of bacterial and viral pathogens and their hosts. Including understanding the underlying molecular basis of the adaptive response of bacteria to various environments and the mechanisms by which bacteria and viruses subvert cellular machinery. You’ll have a four hour weekly lecture to cover material for this module.
This course aims to give you an in depth understanding of the genetics, evolution and biochemistry behind the pathogenic properties of parasites and micro-organisms that cause major human disease in the present day. In a series of lectures you will learn about the molecular genetic biochemical and cellular bases of theses major infectious diseases and why they are still such a health problem. You will understand the post-genomic progress in determining the molecular mechanisms of transmission, pathogenicity and susceptibility as well as understanding the progress and prospects for new therapeutics.
Molecular Pharmacology
The Molecular Pharmacology module aims to give you an understanding of drug discovery and the pharmacology behind some of the most important classes of medicines that are currently in the clinic. The course deals with fundamental concepts and methods in molecular pharmacology and protein structure. You will study the major classes of drug targets, their role in signalling systems that lead to changes in cell and tissue function, and thus how their modulation can influence patient health.
Environmental Biotechnology
In a series of lectures, this module provides training in environmental biotechnology, with particular emphasis on the interaction between microorganisms and the environment. The main topics covered will be wastewater treatment, bioremediation of organic and inorganic pollutants, microbes as indicators of risk factors in the environment, microbes in agriculture (biocontrol and biofertilisers) and the role of microorganisms in bioenergy production.
Parasite Immunology
This course is concerned with the immunology of parasitic diseases and aims to provide you with an understanding of the diverse nature and consequences of the interactions between parasites and the host immune system. You will have a series of lectures.
Plant Disease Control
In this module, you’ll gain an understanding of the applied aspects of plant disease control, in particular transmission, epidemiology, detection and diagnosis and control strategies. You’ll analyse the problems of plant diseases and be able to describe the options available to control losses due to disease and the strengths and weaknesses of these options. You’ll examine control strategies based on a range of approaches – including application of fungicides, biological control, deployment of disease resistant varieties and biotechnological approaches. Importantly, you’ll learn about the strategies used by plant pathogens to spread between plants and cause disease epidemics. You’ll have lectures and a field visit, as well as practical laboratory sessions to develop laboratory skills associated with disease diagnosis.

The modules we offer are inspired by the research interests of our staff and as a result may change for reasons of, for example, research developments or legislation changes. The above list is a sample of typical modules we offer, not a definitive list.


Industry Placement year 

The optional year in industry takes place between years two and three of your degree, extending your degree to a four year programme. Students apply for a placement during year two of the degree programme. A growing number of students across the School of Biosciences are choosing to undertake the year in industry. The majority of placements are paid positions.

A year in industry gives you the opportunity to put your learning into practice, giving you a better understanding of your studies and the chance to solidify your knowledge in an industry setting. Past students have found the experience transformative, as they were able to use science and innovation to solve problems which are current and relevant.

A year in industry gives you the opportunity to develop a wide range of skills in a real-world environment, which will significantly improve your employment prospects. A year of work experience will help you stand out from the crowd as a graduate: many students secure a graduate job as a direct result of their placement year. It’s a unique opportunity for you to learn about what you enjoy doing, and your strengths and weaknesses, putting you in a strong position when considering your future career. 

The School has excellent links with a wide range of businesses and research institutes. The dedicated School Placement Team works with you in partnership to help you search for, apply for and secure a placement, as well as supporting you prior to, during and after the placement. 

More information and profiles of student experiences



By the end of the course you will have a broad understanding of fundamental microbiology and specialisation in the area you have chosen - which could be medical microbiology, virology, molecular biology or food and environmental microbiology. You will have developed strong practical research skills and a number of transferable skills including the ability to collect and analyse data, communicate effectively.

You will be qualified to work with microbial pathogens – this means you can pursue a laboratory career immediately, for example in a
hospital or pharmaceutical company.

Other career possibilities include biotechnology companies, regulatory and environmental agencies, the food industry or further study for a PhD.

Recent destinations of graduates include:

  • research in microbiology in research institutes and universities
  • pharmaceutical and food industries
  • healthcare and medicine research and development
  • Agricultural and environmental disciplines
  • biotechnology research
  • advisory and management roles in government agencies such as Defra, the Food Standards Agency and the Health Protection Agency
  • scientific writing and communication

Average starting salary and career progression

In 2014, 91% of first-degree graduates in the School of Biosciences who were available for employment had secured work or further study within six months of graduation. The average starting salary was £20,257 with the highest being £28,000.*

* Known destinations of full-time home and EU first-degree graduates, 2013/14.

Careers Support and Advice

Studying for a degree at The University of Nottingham will provide you with the type of skills and experiences that will prove invaluable in any career, whichever direction you decide to take. Throughout your time with us, our Careers and Employability Service can work with you to improve your employability skills even further; assisting with job or course applications, searching for appropriate work experience placements and hosting events to bring you closer to a wide range of prospective employers.

Have a look at our Careers page for an overview of all the employability support and opportunities that we provide to current students.  


Fees and funding

Scholarships and bursaries

The University of Nottingham offers a wide range of bursaries and scholarships. These funds can provide you with an additional source of non-repayable financial help. For up to date information regarding tuition fees, visit our fees and finance pages.

Home students*

Over one third of our UK students receive our means-tested core bursary, worth up to £2,000 a year. Full details can be found on our financial support pages.

* A 'home' student is one who meets certain UK residence criteria. These are the same criteria as apply to eligibility for home funding from Student Finance.

International/EU students

The University of Nottingham provides information and advice on financing your degree and managing your finances as an international student. The International Office offers a range of High Achiever Prizes for students from selected schools and colleges to help with the cost of tuition fees.


Key Information Sets (KIS)

Key Information Sets (KIS)

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This online prospectus has been drafted in advance of the academic year to which it applies. Every effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of publishing, but changes (for example to course content) are likely to occur given the interval between publishing and commencement of the course. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply for the course where there has been an interval between you reading this website and applying.

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